When called on his cell phone to ask about his big award from the National Endowment for the Arts, Harold A. Burnham said this:
“Could you call me back in about five minutes? I’m landing the boat at the dock.”
Figures. An 11th-generation Essex shipbuilder, Burnham built the 55-foot pinky schooner Ardelle, which he was docking at Gloucester Maritime on Wednesday morning, along with a number of other wooden ships that still sail local waters.
This week, Burnham was announced as one of nine recipients of 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellowships, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. His fellow honorees include Tejano accordionist Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez and dobro player Mike Auldridge.
The fellowship comes with $25,000 and is intended to recognize that “these artists have honored the history of their art forms while also incorporating their own creativity and innovation to carry the art forms into the 21st century.”
Harold Burnham bears a family name that is virtually synonymous with Essex, the birthplace of approximately 4,000 schooners. He is the 28th Burnham to operate a shipyard in Essex since 1819,
Growing up in a family of shipbuilders and a town where shipbuilding is a tradition handed down over the generations, Harold has learned the standards of the past and traditional techniques. Harold Burnham has carved out a place in history as a master boat designer, shipwright and sailmaker. Like his ancestors before him, Harold has a holistic approach to vessel design, construction and operation which makes him uniquely efficient. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in maritime transportation and fisheries from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, he draws upon extensive experience at sea, and of course, techniques learned in the famous shipyards of Essex.
The author of this blog is Laurie Fullerton. Go to www.burnhamboatbuilding.com or www.schoonerardelle.com for a look at Harold's website